Never knowingly undersolved.

Guardian 24,950 / Arachne

Posted by mhl on March 5th, 2010


Lots to enjoy in this crossword, I thought – in particular some good anagrams. I think it should have all been pretty straightforward, except for perhaps 19 across (which I really liked, though)

1. CATTY CAT = “Tom”, so CATTY = “Tommy?”
4. CARDAMOM CARD = “Jack perhaps” + A + M = “medium” + [k]O[r]M[a] = “korma oddly missing”; I’m more familiar with the “cardamon” spelling, and we got distracted by “cinnamon” for a while
8. STOCKING FILLER Double definition; you might have an orange at the end of a stocking at Christmas, and a pin (leg) fills a stocking
10. FAST LANE T[o] = “to start” in FASLANE = “nuclear base”; the definition is “Quickest way”
11. STRATA TART reversed = “retired floozy” in SA (sex appeal) = “it”
12. NIETZSCHE (ZEN ETHICS)*; an excellent anagram of an easily mispelled name :)
15. OSCAR Hidden answer
17. U-TURN (UNTRU)*; “deposition” (suggesting “put out of position”) is the tricky anagram indicator
19. TAUTEN A nice clue, I think: “in Athens T” = TAU + “X” = TEN
24. RECONNAISSANCE CON inside RENAISSANCE = “return to classical models”; not sure how accurate that description is…
25. DISTASTE DIS (Detective Inspectors) = “Policemen” + TASTE = “liking”
26. EASES [t]EASES = “kids”
1. COSI FAN TUTTE (FAT TEUTONIC S[oprano])*; great anagram for a wonderful opera – I think it would have been OK to drop the “initially” here, which would have improved the surface reading. (As I understand it, including common single letter abbreviations in anagram fodder doesn’t count as being an indirect anagram…)
2. TROUSSEAU T[ailor] + ROUSSEAU = “French writer”
3. YOKEL YOKE = “Burden” over L = “apprentice”
4. CANONICAL CONICAL = “geometrical adjective” around A + N = “cardinal point”
5. RAFT AFT = “towards stern” under R (river) = “moving water” – I think R = “moving water” is a bit of a stretch
7. OPERA O = “no” + P = “quiet” + ERA = “period”
13. ZONKED OUT K = “one of kids” in ZONED OUT = “comatose”. The definition must be “drugged up”, but I don’t get how the inclusion indication works: “Belted […] caught […]” Thanks to Gaufrid for explaining: this is ZONED = “Belted”, [with] K[ids] “caught” + OUT = “comatose”
14. EFFECTIVE EFF = “Swear” + ECT = “shock treatment” + I’VE = “Arachne’s”; the definition is “working” – “undergoing” just indicates “going underneath”
16. COVENANTS COVETS = “Wants” around NAN = “granny”
20. UTERI Hidden answer; the entertaining definition is “temporary children’s homes”
22. ISSUE [t]ISSUE = “material”
23. ONUS ON US = “borne by you and me?” – quite an old crossword joke, I think

39 Responses to “Guardian 24,950 / Arachne”

  1. Gaufrid says:

    Hi mhl
    I had 13dn as K[ids] in (caught) ZONED (belted) OUT (comatose).

  2. Richard says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl. I did enjoy this.

    I didn’t get the pin=leg reference – nice one.
    I’ve never heard of SA being used as an abbreviation for ‘sex appeal’, though.
    Loved the USAIN BOLT anagram.
    Please could you explain ‘A + N’ = cardinal point (4dn) ?

  3. molonglo says:

    Thanks mhl. This was only excellent in parts for me – four or five grandt anagrams and some likable clues (19a, for example, and 20d). Bad bits for me were the back-to-front grammar in 24a (compare its ‘dons’ with the ‘describing’ in 4d), the ‘missing’ in 4a and the ‘undergoing” in 14d. In 8a, orange and pin? Orlando last September had this simply clued: “Pin that may be present”.

  4. mhl says:

    Richard: SA = “sex appeal” is a bit dated, but I’ve seen it pretty often in crosswords.

    It’s just “N = cardinal point” (of the compass, i.e. north), so “a cardinal point” = A N

    Gaufrid: thanks, I’ll correct that

  5. Richard says:

    Thanks again, mhl.

  6. Eileen says:

    Thanks for a great blog, mhl.

    Re 24ac: I see nothing wrong with the grammar. In fact, I thought this was a cleverly misleading use of ‘dons’ and ‘return’, resulting in a very smooth surface.

    I have no problem with the definition either: SOED: ‘The revival of art and letters, under the influence of classical models’.

  7. liz says:

    Thanks for the blog, mhl. I parsed 13dn the way you did and had my doubts about it as a consequence, but it must be as Gaufrid has suggested.

    I liked the use of ‘she’ in 18ac! Welcome change from the ubiquitous ‘he’ in crossword land. Loved the anagrams at 1dn and 9dn.

  8. Ian says:

    Thanks mhl for the explanations.

    Sparking anagrams from Arachne with some clues that were really very smart, esp. Effective and Zonked Out.

    Last in was Uteri which, after eventually spotted as a hidden answer, had to be checked via Chambers.


  9. Eileen says:

    Liz – and another hurrah from me! Why are there so few female setters [as I’ve always assumed Arachne to be, since the legendary one was – she’s not in Jonathan Crowther’s A-Z] – or solvers, it seems, for that matter! :-)

  10. norm says:

    A fine end to a splendid week.

    UTERI was the LOL highlight.

  11. FumbleFingers says:

    Well I hope I’m not being chauvinistic here, but I think “she” in 18ac was somewhat gratuitous. Like Eileen I’ve always assumed Arachne to be female – but until now I never thought s/he might be a closet feminist!

    Apropos self-referentiality from our setters, I thought yesterday’s Brendan was another masterpiece with some superb examples. Right up there with his legendary 24521, if not quite so “in your face”.

  12. Bill Taylor says:

    Sorry to be a naysayer but I thought 18ac was a rather clumsy clue. And, please, can’t we have a break from “onus?” I’m sure I don’t see it as often as I think I do but it’s still frequent enough to have imprinted itself on my brain. There several words that would have fitted into today’s space — ants, anus, ends, gnus, inks, inns, ones — and spared us that “old crossword joke.”

    All in all, though, the best cryptic of the week (uteri — brilliant!).

  13. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Very enjoyable. Liked CATTY and UTERI particularly. Not sure that an orange is a regular feature these days as a stocking filler, but it was still a funny clue.

  14. sandra says:

    i can still manage this site on a good day and most of this was a delight. three cheers for the “she” in lifesaver.i enjoyed 12a, 6d, 25a,8a, and 20d amongst a few others. thought 21a and 9d barely cryptic, groaned as soon as i saw the clue for onus – it’s about time that word was retired, or decently clued. the dons in 24a was nicely misleading, and i was misled for a few minutes. great puzzle overall.

  15. Derek Lazenby says:

    Found this mainly ok with some “dive for the gadgets” parts. Not having seen similar clues before, I didn’t find 8 to be at all obvious until there were a few crossing letters. Without prior knowledge, I don’t think this is particularly gettable by itself.

  16. Judy says:

    I really enjoyed this one, particularly some of the anagrams -both 1d and 9d made me smile. Also wanted to add my cheers for the “she” – certainly not gratuitous.

  17. Bill Taylor says:

    Does this mean you got coal in your Christmas stocking, Derek?

  18. Derek Lazenby says:

    Ha ha. No just nothing there to make me think of stocking let alone a christmas one.

  19. beermagnet says:

    I thought the ‘she’ in 18 was a ref to Mae West as a lifesaver.

  20. brendan says:

    If it had been ‘he’ in 14ac none of us would have thought let alone mentioned gratuitous usage. Not wanting to use aids we misspelled Nietzsche before working out zonked out. All reasonably straightforward, the SE quadrant causing the most bother.

  21. FumbleFingers says:

    Ok ok! I get the message about 18ac! It must be ME who’s the closet chauvinist! I’ll try to be more open-minded in future (or at least learn to button my lip).

  22. sidey says:

    I assumed the same as beermagnet, not gratuitous, simply a rather good clue.

  23. FumbleFingers says:

    That just goes to show my ignorance. Until now I didn’t know about Mae West as a lifesaver (and I still don’t know how beermagnet made his version into a ‘hot’ link). But at the risk of flogging a dead horse I’d have thought “Mae West” for a lifesaver jacket was about as sexist as they come. Is that all the woman is famous for? Having a pneumatic chest?

  24. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Maybe yesterday’s Brendan was – in a way – of a different category, because of this setter’s ability to give us something that’s multi-layered, but this one was every bit as attractive as the other cryptics this week.

    Though some may criticise (but no-one did) the T for ‘to start’, though some thought (well, em, we thought) ‘cardinal’ was more or less superfluous in 4d, though some thought (again, it’s us) that it was a pity that the word ‘safe’ was part of the clue in 18ac, though 2d (TROUSSEAU) and 6d (ABLUTIONS) were Old Chestnuts for us (Usain Bolt being discovered by Paul on his Cryptica site and subsequently used in one of his crosswords last year) – though all this, there were yet loads of rewarding clues.

    [isn’t this a very long sentence? :) ]

    We did like the misleading use of ‘dons’ in 24ac.
    Nice similarity of clues in 3d and 23d.

    Three clues stand out for us: the two anagrams of 12ac (NIETZSCHE) and 9d (HAIRDRESSERS) – because related to the solutions – and the extremely clever TAUTEN of 19ac.

    Finally, a remark on 14d and especially the use of ‘undergoing’.
    We read it as ‘… treatment Arachne is undergoing’ and therefore ‘… treatment I have’. Hence, ” ‘s undergoing ” = ” I’ve “.

    Yep, fine crossword!

  25. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Of course, I meant ” Arachne’s undergoing ” = ” I’ve “.

  26. Bill Taylor says:

    Sexism, alas, was the rule rather than the exception back in the late ’30s/early ’40s when North American and British aircrew started calling their lifevests “Mae Wests” — an example of military, rather than Cockney, rhyming slang (also rhyming, of course, with “breasts.”) And, yes, Ms West was known for, among other things, her generous curves. I think she was rather proud of that. Doesn’t make it any less reprehensible, of course…

  27. Dave Ellison says:

    I found an article about Arachne around September last year in the South Manchester Reporter. Includes a photo of her.

  28. sandra says:

    dave ellison #27 i googled “south manchester reporter arachne” and there it was! thank you. interesting. sorry – can’t do links!

  29. sandra says:


  30. Eileen says:

    Hi Dave E – I don’t know how you found it but many thanks! It’s always good to know a little bit about setters. And yes, she is a woman! :-)

  31. Sil van den Hoek says:

    So, now we know Arachne’s a woman.
    That problem’s solved then.
    She produced a Great Crossword today (and many times before).
    And that’s what matters to me.

  32. Carolyn says:

    Doofus questions of the day:

    4a. The korma, oddly missing bit. The solution here has [k]O[r]M[a] = “korma oddly missing”; but surely that’s oddly missing included and the rest discarded? I’m not bitter about the fact that I spent hours on this and didn’t get it. Honest! Could someone explain this to me in words of 2 syllables or fewer?

    14d It’s the IVE bit I don’t get. Again, in words of few syllables please (I know I’m setting myself up for an answer in Latin or something but I’m hoping someone will take pity on me)

    Thanks in advance for your help. Only 8 clues off from a full house today. I’m obviously learning.

  33. Bill Taylor says:

    Carolyn: “Oddly missing” means the first, third and fifth letters of “korma” are removed and O and M (the even-numbered letters) remain.

    In 14d, think of “Arachne’s” as “Arachne has,” which (looking at it from Arachne’s point of view) equates to “I have” or “I’ve” = IVE.

    No Latin (mea culpa…..) but I hope this helps a little.

  34. Bill Taylor says:

    PS — There’s no such thing as a doofus question.

  35. Bryan says:

    Carolyn @ 32

    4a [k]O[r]M[a] provides OM preceded by CARD and A M(edium).

    14d The IVE bit is a contraction of ‘I’VE’ – in other words the Setter (Arachne). Setters often refer to themselves in a clue but usually as either I or ME.

    Hope this helps!

    Good luck!

  36. Dave Ellison says:

    Eileen @ #30. Pure serendipity. I was looking for something else entirely, no mention of Arachne or crosswords entered in google search box, and it just popped up. Quite amazing really. It took me ages to (re)find the reference this time, however

  37. Eileen says:

    Thanks, Dave. I was intrigued, because I’d tried every Google combination I could think of to find information about Arachne.

    [Serendipity is one of my favourite words!]

  38. Sil van den Hoek says:

    Re #32.
    Carolyn, I don’t want to be a Mister-Know-It-All, but I think my explanation of I’VE, which includes the word ‘undergoing’ (#24,25), is just as valid as Bill Taylor’s ‘Arachne has’ idea (#33).
    Which then at the same time would solve the problem that both mhl (many thanks for the blog!) and molonglo (#3) had with the word ‘undergoing’.

  39. Paul B says:

    I shuggesht ‘Arachne’s’ can lead to I’VE or I’M/ I+AM. But it’s a pretty common weapon in the compiler armoury.

    Has someone done the joke about ‘maybe Arachne has a WEB-site’ yet? I can’t be bothered to scroll thru all the posts I must admit, so sorry if that’s a dupe. Or just incredibly bad. As far as I recall this lady set, with others, the notorious Guardian Quiptic. ‘Twas a puzzle designed to help new solvers understand the wiles and ways of Crypticworld, but which actually seemed to muddy the waters due to the somewhat variable attitude to cryptic grammar it often displayed. Still! Grammar is such a slippery beast, like a greased stoat, is it not? And full marks in any case to The Spider for having such perseverance in adding herself to the main Guardian panel, and for setting such an admirable piece today (or whenever it was).

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